6 Best Mobility Exercises for Older Adults

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

For safer, pain-free movement, help your body work better from head to toe.

mobility exercises

We talk a lot about mobility, but what does it really mean?

In one way, it means joint mobility, or how well an individual joint or a group of joints—like your shoulders or hips—can move. A healthy joint is able to move more and move better, and it’s less likely to cause pain or get injured.

But there’s also total-body mobility, or how well your body moves as one unit to help you get through the day. And for that, you need multiple body parts to work together.

You also need to use different elements of fitness. Good posture keeps your back and shoulders upright. Core strength powers your movements. A combination of stability and flexibility in your lower body helps you stay sure-footed. And to bring it all together, you need awareness of how your body moves in space.

Thankfully, it takes just a few essential exercises to keep your mobility in tip-top shape. Try these.

How to Use These Mobility Exercises

All you need is some open floor space, a mat, and somewhere to walk. If you like, you can use a chair for most of the exercises.

You can spread out the exercises over a week by doing one or two per day. Or you can do them together for a total-body mobility workout.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to perform each movement. As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Mobility Exercise #1: Cactus Arms

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down.

Check your posture. Your head should be up, and your chin should be parallel to the floor. Ears should be over your shoulders. Shoulders should be over your hips. Knees and toes should be pointing forward.

Inhale, and reach your arms out and overhead. Exhale, and keeping your chest lifted, bring your arms out to your sides with palms facing forward and elbows bent 90 degrees like a cactus. That’s one rep. Do eight to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Do the move sitting tall in a chair with good posture. Plus, get more tips with our guide to fix your posture.

Mobility Exercise #2: Cactus Arms Open and Close

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: From cactus arms, inhale, and bring your arms together, tucking your chin to your chest and rounding your back. Exhale, and open your arms and chest. That’s one rep. Do eight to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Do the move sitting tall in a chair with good posture. If it’s not safe for you to round your back, simply open and close your arms while keeping your torso still.

Mobility Exercise #3: Bird Dog

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: Start on all fours with your hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Engage your abs, keep your spine neutral, and gaze down or slightly forward.

Lift your right arm and extend your left leg until they are in line with the rest of your body. Pause, then lower back down, and repeat on the opposite side with left arm and right leg extended. That’s one rep. Do eight to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Keep your hands on the floor, and only extend your leg. Need something that doesn’t require you to get on the floor? Try one of these chair exercises for your core.

Mobility Exercise #4: Chair Pose

Hold for 5 to 8 breaths

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, making sure your knees and hips are facing forward. Engage your belly.

Sit back, bending your knees and lowering your hips as if you are hovering over a chair. Keeping your weight in your heels, reach your arms forward for counterbalance. Breathe here for five to eight breaths, and then gently return to the starting position.

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Make it easier: Start with seated chair pose. Pretend you’re glued in the chair and you’re trying to get up. Get more pointers in this beginner’s guide to chair pose.

Mobility Exercise #5: Side-to-Side Squat

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: Stand with your feet wide. Make sure you feel steady and balanced, adjusting your feet until you feel comfortable. Clasp your hands in front of your chest, and brace your core.

Moving with control, bend your left knee, and sit back, keeping your right leg straight and your core strong. Return to center, and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Do eight to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Position your arms wherever they feel most comfortable. You can rest them on your hips or hold a wall for support. Want more ways to improve your flexibility? Check out these simple stretches for older adults.

Mobility Exercise #6: Mind-Body Walk

Walk for 10 to 15 minutes

How to do it: You can do this on a treadmill, on an indoor track, or outdoors. For this walk, your goal isn’t to go fast or push yourself hard. You want to move slowly and pay attention to each part of the movement.

Notice how you land on your heel with each step and then roll from your heel to the ball and toes of that foot. Be mindful of your leg swinging forward and your weight shifting from leg to leg with each step. Make sure your posture is good with your shoulders down and back. Breathe and swing your arms naturally. Walk for 10 to 15 minutes.

Make it easier: Walk for a shorter amount of time, even if it’s two to three minutes. The important thing is to notice the sensations as you walk. Plus, check out these foot exercises.

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